Kerry Collins' visit to Giants Stadium yesterday morning will not be his last one. But when he returns in the near future, it will only be to say goodbye.
The 31-year-old quarterback, who led the Giants to the Super Bowl three seasons ago, said yesterday he expects to be released in the next few days. He met with GM Ernie Accorsi at Giants Stadium yesterday morning and told him he "wouldn't be interested" in renegotiating his contract. And the Giants aren't interested in keeping Collins as a backup to Eli Manning at a cost of $7 million this year.
"He basically asked me how I felt about the situation and I told him that I wouldn't be interested in doing any restructuring or taking any sort of pay cut," Collins said. "I also think it would've made things very awkward for Eli and I. I think in fairness to myself and my history here, (backing up Manning) is just something I wasn't interested in doing."
That stance was not unexpected, even though Accorsi insisted he wanted to find a way to keep Collins even after he engineered the blockbuster deal for Manning. Accorsi hoped Collins would agree to a restructuring that would reduce his $8.95 million salary cap number this year.
Collins said that Accorsi, who will scour a very limited trade market before releasing Collins, had laid out several options, including a contract extension with "voidable years" that would allow him to become a free agent after this season. And Accorsi insisted any renegotiation would've allowed Collins to earn his full $7 million salary in a combination of bonuses and salary in 2004.
But the conversation between Collins and Accorsi apparently wasn't specific. One source close to Collins insisted the quarterback would have strongly considered an offer to stay if it meant he'd get his $7 million and 2005 free agency, but an actual offer was never made.
"We didn't talk about numbers or anything like that," Collins said. " But (restructuring) wasn't something I was interested in doing."
Besides, Collins said, he knows his future lies elsewhere since the Giants are committed to Manning.
"They feel Eli is going to be a special, special player," Collins said. "Ernie this morning even said to me he felt he's one of the three or four best college prospects that he's seen come out in the last 20 years. He mentioned guys like (John) Elway and (Dan) Marino. Hey, if they feel that strongly about him, I don't blame them for doing what they did."
The Giants plan to replace Collins with a veteran backup; Vinny Testaverde, Neil O'Donnell, Jeff Blake and Damon Huard are all possibilities. As for Collins, whose rifle arm accounted for 16,875 passing yards and 81 touchdowns in 71 games with the Giants, his future is a bit of a mystery.
Collins' agent, David Dunn, was given permission yesterday to speak to other teams and he has already gotten calls from four: Dallas, where former Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton is an assistant; Baltimore, where Jim Fassel is a consultant; Oakland and Arizona.
"It may be hard for me to find a job as a starter now, but I believe I'm a starter," Collins said. "I believe I've got a lot of good years left. Hopefully there'll be some options and I'll try to pick the one that's best for me."